St. Louis Sewers To Get $4.7B Upgrade

KANSAS CITY, Mo., Aug. 4 (UPI) — The Metropolitan St. Louis Sewer District has agreed to spend $4.7 billion during the next 23 years to upgrade its system, federal officials said Thursday.

The Department of Justice and U.S. Environmental Protection Agency announced a settlement of a lawsuit filed in 2007. Improvements to treatment plants and sewers will end overflows of raw sewage and reduce pollution in rivers in the St. Louis area, officials said.

The plans include construction of three storage tunnels ranging in length from 2 miles to 9 miles and expansion of two treatment plants. The EPA said overflows would be cut by 13 million gallons.

The Missouri Coalition for the Environment Foundation was also involved in the lawsuit.

“St. Louis, America’s Gateway City, grew up alongside the Mississippi. Unfortunately, for too long it treated the river’s tributaries as a dumping ground for sewage,” EPA Regional Administrator Karl Brooks said. “By moving forward with this Clean Water Act settlement, the community is facing its responsibilities. This agreement will bring jobs and long-term economic investments while significantly improving the environment for future generations.”

Shell Moves Forward In Gulf, Arctic

WASHINGTON, Aug. 4 (UPI) — Shell has received approval from U.S. regulators for a development well in the Gulf of Mexico and exploration in the Beaufort Sea.

The well in the gulf is to be in water 4,000 feet deep 140 miles southeast of New Orleans, The Washington Post reported Thursday. The Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Regulation and Enforcement, an agency of the Interior Department, gave the well a permit.

Shell plans to drill two wells in the Beaufort Sea north of Alaska next summer and possibly three more wells in the Chukchi Sea to the west. The bureau gave the plan a conditional okay.

Drilling in the gulf has been problematic since last year’s BP oil spill, with the American Petroleum Institute accusing the Obama administration of not getting drilling back to pre-spill levels.

EarthJustice, an environmental group, slammed Shell’s Arctic plans, saying spills can be worse in the region because of low temperatures. The bureau has taken “a dangerous and disappointing leap toward drilling in the remote and fragile waters of America’s Arctic Ocean,” the group said.

Historic Warship Docks For Last Time

SAN DIEGO, Aug. 4 (UPI) — Hundreds of people were on hand Thursday to welcome the USS Cleveland as it pulled into the Naval Base Sane Diego at the end of its final mission.

The third-oldest ship in the Navy will be docked in San Diego until its formal decommissioning ceremony.

Most of those on hand Thursday were family and friends of the crew of the 548-foot ship, which came into use during the Vietnam War, The San Diego Union-Tribune reported..

Megan Duran, 22, of Corona, Calif., was waiting for her husband, Abel, who was on the ship.

“I missed him a lot. I am very glad he’s back,” she said.

“It was a good experience, but I am glad to be home,” Abel Duran said after kissing his wife.

Players Ratify NFL Deal

NEW YORK, Aug. 4 (UPI) — NFL players ratified a 10-year collective bargaining agreement with league owners Thursday, removing the final barrier to the start of the 2011 season.

The negotiating team for the players had already approved the deal but a league-wide vote was needed to make it official.

“Our office was notified at 4:54 pm ET that the players have ratified the CBA,” NFL spokesman Greg Aiello said.

The affirmative vote was expected, although no vote percentages were announced. It took a clear majority of favorable votes for the ratification to take place.

The mechanics for the new season had already been in operation for a week amid a flurry of free-agent signings and trades involving star players.

“We are proud that we ratified the CBA,” players union head DeMaurice Smith said. “Thanks to our players for their leadership. Thanks to our fans for your patience.”

The opening round of exhibition games will take place Aug. 11-15.

Polar Dinosaurs Not Different From Others

BOZEMAN, Mont., Aug. 4 (UPI) — Small dinosaurs that lived near the South Pole weren’t much different from dinosaurs that lived everywhere else on the planet, a U.S. researcher says.

The finding may help explain why dinosaurs were so successful in the domination of Earth for almost 160 million years, Montana State University graduate student Holly Woodward said.

“This tells us something very interesting; that basically from the very start, early dinosaurs, or even the ancestors of dinosaurs, evolved a physiology that allowed an entire group of animals to successfully exploit a multitude of environmental conditions for millions of years,” Woodward said.

A previous study of polar dinosaurs had proposed some hibernated during the coldest part of the year, a behavior that would have differentiated them from most of their relatives in the rest of the world.

But nothing in the fossils of polar dinosaurs she studied suggests such behaviors, Woodward said.

“If we were trying to find evidence of dinosaurs doing something much different physiologically, we would expect it to be found in dinosaurs from an extreme environment such as the South Pole,” Woodward said. “But based on bone tissues, dinosaurs living within the Antarctic Circle were physiologically similar to dinosaurs living everywhere else.”

Report: Romney PAC Got Mysterious $1M

WASHINGTON, Aug. 4 (UPI) — A company that incorporated in March gave $1 million to Mitt Romney’s U.S. presidential campaign before going out of business in July, records show.

MSNBC reported the company, W Spann LLC, left no records of officers or business activities during its brief life span. It donated money in April to Restore Our Future, a political action committee associated with Romney, the former Massachusetts governor who is seeking the Republican nomination.

Cameron Casey, a lawyer with the Boston firm Ropes & Gray who specializes in estate-planning for the rich, signed the incorporation papers and those dissolving the firm, The Washington Post said. The company’s listed address — 590 Madison Ave., New York, N.Y. — is an office building where Bain Capital, Romney’s investment company, has an office.

While U.S. Supreme Court decisions on election spending have reduced required disclosure and loosed rules about donations, Fred Wertheimer, president of Democracy 21, said he believes the donation may have been illegal. He called for investigation by the Federal Election Commission and the Justice Department.

’87 EPA Report Shows Fracking Problems

WASHINGTON, Aug. 4 (UPI) — A 1987 report by U.S. regulators on groundwater contamination in West Virginia shows hydraulic fracturing for gas is not safe, an environmental group says.

The Environmental Working Group, based in Washington, released a report Wednesday on the process, known generally as fracking, titled “Cracks in the Facade,” the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reported. The Environmental Protection Agency reported to Congress in 1987 that a 4,000-foot well drilled in 1982 by Kaiser Natural Gas had contaminated neighboring wells.

Drilling for natural gas in the Marcellus Shale, which underlies parts of West Virginia and western Pennsylvania, New York and Maryland, has recently expanded greatly.

Dusty Horwitt, who wrote the report, said there was similar contamination to that found by the EPA in 1987after a gas well was drilled in Jackson County in West Virginia.

“Now it’s up to the EPA to pick up where it left off 25 years ago and determine the true risks of fracking so that our drinking water can be protected,” he said.

Kathryn Klaber, president of the Marcellus Shale Coalition, said problems with the 1982 well were isolated. She called the report part of a “campaign to malign the modern-day shale gas revolution under way in America.”

Man Arrested For Shooting Raccoons

COSTA MESA, Calif., Aug. 4 (UPI) — A Costa Mesa, Calif., man was arrested on suspicion of shooting two raccoons, police say.

Samuel K. Gregory, who allegedly shot a mother and baby raccoon, could be charged with cruelty to animals, a felony, the Los Angeles Times reported.

The two raccoons were brought to All Creatures Care Cottage in Costa Mesa Wednesday morning, Debbie McGuire, the facility’s hospital administrator, said.

The mother raccoon had to be euthanized due to a fractured elbow and shot wounds. The baby raccoon, called a kit, was dead before arriving at the All Creatures Care Cottage, McGuire said.

McGuire said a shotgun may have been used, as both animals were found with hundreds of pellets in them.

“It was horrifying,” McGuire said.

“There’s no excuse, absolutely no excuse for that,” she said.

‘Wired’ Glove Improves Touch Sense

ATLANTA, Aug. 4 (UPI) — Researchers at Georgia Tech say a newly developed glove with a special vibrating fingertip can improve the wearer’s sense of touch.

Applying a small vibration to the side of the fingertip during the glove’s use improves tactile sensitivity and motor performance, Georgia Tech scientists Jun Ueda and Minoru Shinohara said.

Previous research has demonstrated that adding an appropriate amount of “white noise” — a concept called stochastic resonance — can improve sight, hearing, balance control and touch, but had never been incorporated into a wearable device.

“This device may one day be used to assist individuals whose jobs require high-precision manual dexterity or those with medical conditions that reduce their sense of touch,” said Jun Ueda, a professor of mechanical engineering.

In the research, volunteers wore the glove while performing common sensory and motor skill tasks including texture discrimination, two-point discrimination, single-point touch and grasp tests.

The volunteers performed statistically better on all of the tasks when mechanical vibration was applied, the researchers said.

“The future of this research may lead to the development of a novel orthopedic device that can help people with peripheral nerve damage resume their daily activities or improve the abilities of individuals with jobs that require skills in manipulation or texture discrimination,” Ueda said.

4 Sentenced For Killing Couple

PENSACOLA, Fla., Aug. 4 (UPI) — Four men who admitted participating in the killing of a Florida couple during a home invasion and robbery were sentenced Thursday to prison terms.

Leonard Patrick Gonzalez Sr., Gary Lamont Sumner Jr., Rakeem Chavez Florence and Frederick Lee Thornton Jr. all pleaded guilty to second-degree murder. At the sentencing, they received terms ranging from 17 1/2 years to 24 years behind bars, WALA-TV, Pensacola, reported.

The victims, Byrd and Melanie Billings, were shot July 9, 2009, after men wearing ninja costumes broke into their home in Escambia County west of Pensacola. The killers stole a safe containing jewelry, family papers and medication.

The couple had adopted 12 special-needs children, and nine were in the house at the time.

Leonard Patrick Gonzalez Jr., who investigators said planned the crime and recruited his father and others, is on death row. Billings had given him money to start a martial arts studio.

Two other men are serving double life sentences.